Marketing needs to be more empathetic, says Great Eastern's Colin Chan

In times of crisis such as COVID-19, it is especially important for brands to be empathetic to its consumers, according to Colin Chan, managing director, group marketing at Great Eastern. For the 112-year-old insurance company, it recognised the need to adopt a more empathetic and authentic approach with its content and offerings.

Speaking to Marketing, Chan said the solutions Great Eastern looks to provide are aimed to respond to the immediate needs of the consumers. This can come in the form of providing digital consultations for consumers who are still wary to meet face-to-face, or even providing additional benefits to its plans such as retrenchment benefits and free coverage for dengue fever. Being aware of the impacts COVID-19 had on its consumers, such as the loss of employment and the rising concern of dengue fever cases, the brand tweaked its existing coverage to include additional benefits, as well as impose a premium deferment for six months to help consumers who may be struggling financially.

This led to the installment of its Lifeproof campaign where the company produced two brand films that featured common questions searched on Google. It then showed viewers that they are not alone by revealing the number of searches, and remind viewers that it is not Life’s questions that define them, but their answers.


According to Great Eastern, the questions addressed in the brand film have been commonly heard by its financial representatives on the ground. With such questions posed, it gives the company insights into its consumers needs and helps it innovate its offerings accordingly. Great Eastern’s campaign saw significant reach, with an overall reach of 669,998 on social media for the two films. 

“COVID-19 has changed the way marketers approach consumers, and has called for even more mindfulness, empathy, and sensitivity to what we are going through together as a community,” Chan said. He also pointed out that content has to be made more accessible and digestible for its consumers during this period of time. “We had to do more digital content that are more visual and self-explanatory”, he said, adding that accessibility to information is also key to appeal to consumers, given the convoluted nature of the product that is insurance. 

Chan also pointed out Great Eastern’s efforts to reach out to consumers of different segments in life. The Lifeproof campaign was focused on four specific segments of consumers: parents-to-be, parents with young kids, pre-retirees, and those who are new to the workforce. He added that there were two separate films produced with the same concept, with one more targeted at younger demographics as it featured questions that the younger generation are more likely to face.

Separately, the insurance company realised during COVID-19, there is an significant impact on the segment of self-employed workers and freelancers, as they are left without the support of employee benefits or corporate insurance coverage should they need medical help. Great Eastern then collaborated with telehealth provider Doctor Anywhere to provide an affordable insurance product – GREAT Comprehensive Care – to meet protection needs of gig economy workers in Singapore.  

With these targeted offerings, Great Eastern hopes to convey the message that it understands what consumers are going through and is there to work through these challenges with them.

For Great Eastern, the COVID-19 has only accelerated its plans for digitisation. Earlier in April, Great Eastern brought its services online, enabling consumers to apply for their insurance policy digitally. It also made tele-advisory services with a financial representative available for consumers as well, so they can purchase the offerings from their homes.

Allocating more than half of its marketing budget to digital, Great Eastern said it also focused on its digital channels such as its website, social media, and mobile applications.

According to Chan, its website is key in driving customer engagement. Over the past six months, the insurance company has seen an increase in visitors and engagement across the region, with 74% increase in Singapore, 87% in Malaysia, and 133% in Indonesia. Its social media engagement has also seen high uptake in Singapore and Malaysia, having an increase of 147% and 105% respectively. In light of the increase of engagement, Chan said the company has also increased social content and campaigning in the last three months, considering how consumers are likely to be more attuned to having digital interaction with it during this period.

Great Eastern has also been ramping up its communications, by providing information about its schemes on its official website, using social media to push and highlight its efforts, sending EDMs and SMSes to clients to ensure even the non-social media users are informed. The brand places a lot of importance on its internal communications as it sought to operate with the new social distancing measures, keeping its stakeholders and financial representatives well-informed and safe.

Earlier this month, it also launched its mobile app to bring more of its products and offerings to its consumers digitally. With the app, Singapore customers can have round-the-clock access to and one-glance overview of all their insurance and investment-linked policies. They can also actively manage their investment-linked policies with more agility and simplicity through their mobile devices. Since its launch, the app has garnered over 9,000 downloads, and is said to be rolling out more value-added services in the next few months.

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